As college students, the biggest thing we learn is to be open to learning itself. There is an assumption that we are interested in a topic or industry and our goal is to explore it. If we embrace this openness to learning, there are new skills and knowledge we pick up on. At a certain point, this means you will begin utilizing those skills in a professional setting, whether it be as an intern, in a fellowship, or your first job. Once this happens, it’s essential for you to start communicating like a young professional. These are two changes that will help you sound more confident and self-assured at your internship or next job.
The first adjustment is to communicate your current knowledge and skill set with ease. Sometimes at the beginning of people’s careers, the words they chose make it seem like they haven’t learned much. However, as a college student, you are learning a lot every day. The key is to review all of the topics you are familiar with. After you’ve reviewed your knowledge you can use it to explore new projects. How valuable is your knowledge as a student? For the right company or client, it can be invaluable. Often current students are learning new methods or techniques that more seasoned professionals haven’t learned yet. Also, there are companies looking for employees who are younger, to diversify their employee perspectives. Managers will take note of employees who have enough awareness to know where they are in their careers. Being at the start of your career can be useful and you can embrace your beginning, while still acknowledging the experience you already have.
The second way to guarantee the best communication is to be honest about what you don’t know. This is a common mistake I see in some young professionals. In meetings, when asked if they know something they will say yes even if they don’t have a clue. But this is a huge mistake. For those who want to take a more assertive approach, you can say “ I’m not familiar with (insert subject, but I would be excited to research (Insert subject) so I can utilize this as part of the company". This acknowledges where you are, states you can learn and also expresses your enthusiasm. Any variation of this is way better than a bluff you can’t back up.
If you’re an intern, puffing up your experience means you’ve delayed your learning opportunity. Interns don’t have to know everything, part of the role will mean you get exposed to tons of new things. Also, if you’ve started your first job this again will delay your training. At an entry-level position, most are hired with the expectation that there will be training. If you don’t give an honest evaluation of your skills, your manager won’t know how to best help you. In the short term telling a little lie or just flat out lying may seem like the right way to go. However, in the long-term, it will hurt your professional growth and possibly hurt your relationship with your employer.
Overall, these are two that are easy to remember that will help you transition into your first professional role, whether it be as an intern or a full-time employee. Those who are able to communicate their skill set clearly and also be honest about their areas of needed growth will find more success. At the end of the day, you want your professional reputation to start off in a positive way. With these two tips, you can speak to your managers in a straight-forward and confident way.
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